Manitoba Historical Society
Search
MHS website:
 


MHS
Spring 2014
Field Trip


Past Lane
News


Upcoming
Events


Manitoba
History

No. 74


Digitized
Local History
Books


Memorable
Manitobans


Historic Sites
of Manitoba


Questions on
Manitoba
History

Memorable Manitobans: William Sylvester Alpheus “Billy” Beal (1874-1968)

Click to enlargeCommunity activist, photographer.

Born at Chelsea, Massachusets on 16 January 1874, son of Loretta H. Freeman and Charles R. Beal, he grew up at Minneapolis, Minnesota where he graduated from high school. He arrived in the Swan River area of Manitoba in 1906 to work as a steam engineer at a saw mill. He decided to stay, becoming the first African-American resident in an otherwise exclusively Caucasian community, residing there for almost 60 years. Beal was widely known for his breadth of interests, including carpentry, electronics, philosophy, astronomy, nutrition, and religion. He made electrified fences for cattle farmers, and furniture and toys which he gave to friends and neighbors. He is believed to have had some medical training, helping local doctors to administer vaccinations and carrying his own medical bag.

He was involved in the formation of the Big Woody School District in 1912 and was elected its first Secretary-Treasurer, holding that position for 37 years. He was instrumental in the establishment of a circulating library within the school system. He also served as the first secretary of the Big Woody Sunday School. He formed a literary society and debating teams; he directed plays, and organized poetry readings and musical concerts. A keen amateur photographer, a selection of his images were featured in a 1988 biography entitled Billy: The Life and Photography of William S. A. Beal.

A life-long bachelor, Beal died penniless at The Pas, Manitoba on 25 January 1968. He was buried in The Pas Cemetery.

Sources:

Billy: The Life and Photography of William S. A. Beal by Robert Barrow and Leigh Hambly, Winnipeg: Vig Corps Press, 1988.

“Local book probes live of enigmatic northern photographer” by Donald Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 November 1988, page 38.

We thank Ernesto Griffith and Ken Fahrenschon for providing additional information used in this profile.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 12 October 2011

Memorable Manitobans Memorable Manitobans

A collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

Search the collection by word or phrase, name, place, occupation or other text:

Custom Search

Browse surnames beginning with:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z | 2013


Send corrections and additions to the Memorable Manitobans Administrator at biographies@mhs.mb.ca

Suggest a Memorable Manitoban  |  Sources  |  Acknowledgements

Support the MHS and

Back to top of page

   
 

 
To report an error on the above page,
please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home | Terms & Conditions | FAQ | Contact Us
Privacy Policy | Donations Policy
Website © 1998-2014 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.